Revealed: The cost of running for political office in Kenya

Running for political office in Kenya can break the bank.

It will cost you an average sh. 18.2 million to be a Member of Parliament

It will cost you an average sh. 35.5 million to run for the Senate seat, sh. 22.8 million for the Woman Representative seat, sh. 18.2 million to be a Member of Parliament (MP) while the Member of County Assembly (MCA) seat is the least expensive at sh. 3.1 million.

According to a 2021 report released by Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) in collaboration with The Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) the high cost of politics has major implications for political participation and development.

"Many of those who are elected to office use their seat as a source of patronage in national level networks, which are heavily involved in corruption in the public sector," read the report in part.

Data collected from 300 aspirants in the 2017 General Elections indicated that these costs were predominantly raised from individual’s personal savings or with the support of friends or family.

Less than 20% of survey respondents received financial support directly from their political party. "The more a candidate spends, the greater their chance of electoral victory," the report revealed.

Since the passage of a new constitution in 2010, which created six elective positions available in each county, larger political parties rely on the popularity of the presidential candidate in order to secure the six positions.

An example of this was witnessed in 2017 when several constituents in Uasin Gishu county elected the Governor, Senator, Woman Representative, MPs and MCAs all nominated by the Jubilee Party in what was regarded to as a six piece voting strategy.

If you thought that the spending would stop immediately one was elected then you're mistaken.

According to the report, on average MPs spend as much as sh. 780,000 a month, primarily on development projects for constituents and donations to local interest groups. This is more than their basic monthly salary before allowances and benefits.

The report further exposed how tough it is for women to vie for political positions.

Women are spending as much or more than men, but they are not enjoying the same level of success for reasons best explained by prevailing patriarchal norms that impact on how they can campaign and how they are perceived by voters.

Dennitah Ghati, nominated MP for Persons with Disabilities expressed similar sentiments.

"It is true women candidates spend a lot more than male candidates because the patriarchal nature of our society puts it that women have to work thrice as hard to get those elective posts," she said.

Running for office in Kenya takes place in the absence of the enforcement of the law and regulations on campaign financing.

Despite the huge costs, benefits that come with being an elected official are sizeable and extend beyond the salaries and benefits.

The position grants the individual the title of Mheshimiwa and can open doors into Kenya’s wider patronage structures.

Kenyan MPs are among the highest-paid legislatures in the world; their salaries are even more than what legislatures in some of the most developed countries earn.

As of 2020, the gross salary of an MP in Kenya is sh 1.59 million per month. This salary is inclusive of allowances and other benefits.

Apart from the salaries earned by these MPs, car grant is also given to them. This grant amounts to sh 5.88 million and is tax free.

The same MPs also pocket sh 10,000 per sitting, plus mileage allowances. They are also entitled to health insurance policy.

Most of the MPs are members of parliamentary commissions, meaning that they pocket at least sh 10,000 each per sitting.

All these benefits make the position of an MP one of the most sought jobs in Kenya.

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